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Posts by slapin

Autism, TSA and the Upcoming Election

October 20th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

Recently, my husband and I flew on Thursday to Phoenix, where he spoke for a Dave Ramsey sponsored Business Boutique event on Friday and for a local synagogue on Shabbat.

Not until the next day did we read of massive TSA lines in Chicago and of 3,000 bags that missed outgoing flights from the Phoenix airport due to TSA incompetence. In contrast, our TSA lines moved swiftly and it was the airline itself rather than TSA that behaved incompetently, consistently announcing an on-time departure despite the fact that anyone looking out of the terminal could see that there was no airplane on the tarmac. Eventually, they changed the departure time on the announcement board — to an hour after the flight actually left. Nonetheless, we were grateful to arrive safely at our destination and to meet our luggage there.

Shortly before this trip, I read an amazing book, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. I ordered the book at my library, having read a review of it. That was a good move, as had I seen it on the shelf I think I would have walked past, expecting it by its size to be interminable and dry. It was anything but. The book is fast-paced and reads almost like a mystery story leaving you eager to find out what happens next.

What in the world does airline travel have to do with the lessons of autism’s history? The modern story of autism goes back only a few decades and the guru of the movement for a long time was Dr. Bruno Bettelheim. His credentials? Actually, he didn’t have any. Neither his degree from an Austrian university in art history nor his adulation of Freud equipped him to direct the lives of thousands of families facing serious difficulties. Dr. Bettelheim concocted the idea of the ‘refrigerator mom.’ In other words, a lack of maternal love led to autism. This may have been a slight advance over the culture of the day that would institutionalize the most severe cases and encourage parents to forget they ever had such a child, but it caused unnecessary anguish and his misguided ‘treatments’ were ineffectual.

What changed? What challenged the idolization of the non-medical doctor whose advice was followed by most physicians? Parents. Parents who were able to look past the cult of the expert and knew that their understandable exhaustion and frustration at dealing with their children did not mean a lack of love and that they certainly didn’t cause the autistic behaviors. In effect, a parental revolt led by a small number of parents overturned academia at a time when doctors were held in high esteem. Physicians played the part of the mindless crowd of The Emperor’s New Clothes, while mothers and fathers acted the part of the little boy who could see the truth.

I do recommend reading the book, but I also see an optimistic parallel for the potential for a revolt by average, normal flyers to the TSA morass. In many ways, the TSA debacle, begun by a Republican president as a reaction to a real and present danger and inevitably morphing into an expensive, failing bureaucracy, represents the entire government structure. Both Trump and Sanders’ popularity came from a revolt against the ‘experts’ and insiders of the Republican and Democrat parties who populate that behemoth. Just as in the battle to understand autism, not every defiant step is an advance. The battle can be messy and get sidetracked in negative ways. However, a growing coalition of people who may vehemently disagree with each other, agree that the status quo is destructive. No matter what happens in November, they can force an unresponsive, arrogant ruling class, whether in politics or medicine, to change course.

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Vulgar, Lewd and Getting My Vote

October 13th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 44 comments

If you’ve known me for a while, you know that I have a visceral, negative reaction to vulgarity. Guests to our home have been on the receiving end of a withering stare for saying something judged as ‘not refined,’ an anemic, weak distant relative of Donald Trump’s words. I expect my daughters to be treated with respect and I reject ‘locker room’ banter as immature and  boorish.

I’m also voting for Donald Trump. I have nothing to say to anyone voting for Hillary Clinton because of Trump’s leaked words. That is simply hypocritical. Not only does she possess her own potty mouth, she colluded with her husband to degrade the moral level of America.  On this issue, she and Trump are two sides of a coin.

The other option is one that many public Republican figures are taking—to leave the president option blank on their ballot. I admit to feeling a pull towards that choice. Donald Trump is not only vulgar, but he is also a braggart and possessor of other poor character traits that I despise. While I thought that his statement apologizing for his disgusting words was classy, I think it would be naive to assume he is actually a changed man. As a private individual, I can give him the benefit of the doubt, but I need to vote for him acknowledging that his repentance might be transient or even expedient rather than sincere.


Choose Life

October 11th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

What if you do not want to pray for life? That thought ran as an undercurrent through my mind as I prayed the extra prayers during the Ten Days of Repentance that culminate with Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Many of those prayers plead with God for the opportunity to live for another year. The soft whisper I heard was spurred by a beautifully written article, dictated by use of voice recognition technology because author Ben Mattlin cannot use his hands. Severely disabled from birth, he fights for life each day as he has done from infancy. During that time, he graduated from Harvard, became an accomplished financial journalist, married and raised two children, and achieved many other goals of which many healthy people only dream. In his article, he explains how much he values his life and how much value his life has. He was partially motivated to write by the legally sanctioned refusal of treatment to a fourteen-year-old born with the same birth defect as he, spinal muscular atrophy.


More Police Officers Killed

October 10th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

Two more police officers were targeted and killed on Saturday in California. Meanwhile, for taking on the job of protecting the public you get reviled by President Obama and the media who assume you are guilty even after being proven innocent. If the bad apples in politics were removed, we’d have an almost empty Senate. If the bad apples in the police force were removed, we’d still have a robust force.

Adina’s Israel Story – Guest Musing

October 6th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

Adina is the daughter of one of my best friends and one of my daughter’s best friends.  My aunt and uncle and many of my cousins and friends live within a short distance of Adina and her family. This is her story.

We overslept this morning. Instead of our usual 6am wake up, my husband woke with a start at 6:50. I was nursing the baby while he got up to brush his teeth. Within minutes he returned, handing me his phone silently. “Terrorist apprehended in Zayit neighborhood of Efrat, one wounded, all residents told to stay indoors.” I handed his phone back to him and said, “oh.”


Sometimes there is no response to the unthinkable. Sometimes there is no response to what is almost inevitable and yet we hope and pray so desperately to avoid.


Train Safety vs. up-to-date Bathrooms

September 30th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

A few days after Donald Trump mentioned the pitiful state of American airports, a train accident tragically killed people in Hoboken. When Trump spoke, I thought that there are only a small minority of Americans who travel abroad and are aware of the advanced state of airports, trains, and travel in many foreign countries. But everyone knows that too frequent train crashes, bridges collapsing and near-misses at airports are a problem – though no one’s number one concern until tragedy strikes home.  How did we turn into a country that can’t update, let alone innovate in the things that truly matter to citizen’s lives while cutting edge in America is being busy establishing thousands of new gender categories?

Soul Revival

September 28th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

While boating in British Columbia, I resemble nothing so much as Carol Burnett’s rendition of a charwoman. If I visited Victoria, Vancouver or dozens of smaller cities via airplane or car, I would dress as I usually do. Arriving by small boat, I tend to personify the essence of casual verging on bohemian. The change in clothing exemplifies the change in pace and preoccupation.



Debate Prep

September 25th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Actually, I’m not talking about Trump or Clinton prep, but rather my own and that of other citizens. The Wall Street Journal yesterday had a fascinating piece contrasting serious policy debate, where elected officials lays out their beliefs while trying to decide public policy, from our current TV debates, where each individual basically does shameless self-promotion.  I loved reading


Lots of Change, Maybe a Glimmer of Hope

September 22nd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 21 comments

After what sometimes seemed like an endless campaign season, the final stretch is in view. The debates, terrorism, Trumpian unpredictability and more Clinton scandals might make these last few weeks even more volatile than usual, but Election Day is approaching. It is time to remember Abraham Lincoln’s words, “With malice toward none.”

I assiduously read comments to my Musings. I regularly read comments to a variety of blogs that I follow. Recently, an article in the Wall Street Journal on the non-controversial topic of postal shipping rates stimulated a slew of comments that were both pertinent and helpful. In contrast, I rarely read comments on sites such as Fox or CNN. Unlike the previous examples, those comments often seem to be dominated by hate-filled, bitter individuals, both on the left and the right. If your window to American culture came through that lens, you would be forgiven for thinking us an unintelligent, vulgar society.


Wells Fargo vs. Hillary

September 21st, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

I watched the video of Elizabeth Warren excoriating John Stumpf of Wells Fargo. I’m not saying that he is blameless or behaved nobly. However, there is supposed to be equal justice under the law. I would care more about her toughness to him if she would show the same toughness to politicians who are neither blameless nor noble – say Hillary Clinton. As an individual I can (and a few years ago did) take my money away from Wells Fargo. As an individual I was not able to remove Clinton as Secretary of State. Who should be held to a higher standard?

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